REVIEW: ‘Aladdin’ by Burnley Pantomime Society

Cast of Aladdin at the Mechanics in Burnley. Photo Ben Parsons
Cast of Aladdin at the Mechanics in Burnley. Photo Ben Parsons

PANTOMIME stalwart Hazel Hodder must be doing something right.

It’s 34 years since she dipped her toes into the wonderful world of slapstick fun. And her latest production Aladdin is proving to be something of a family affair. Director Neil Tranmer, who has starred himself many times on stage, is joined by son Mark in his first major role with Burnley Pantomime Society.

And talented Laura Chadwick, who plays Soshy, is joined on stage by theatre old boy and dad Martin Chadwick as the big bad Abanazar.

Many moons ago I trod the society boards too as a youngster and it was lovely to see that Hazel hadn’t forgotten an old face after so many years and that she still has the same enthusiasm as she had then.

I was joined by my three-year-old son Ruaridh, who didn’t know what a pantomime was before he went, but after telling him it would be full of corny jokes, he was keen to find out.

And what fun we had. The show, which runs at Burnley Mechanics until January 23rd, is an amateur one, but it wouldn’t look out of place on a professional stage.

Neil has got the cast well-trained and a slick opening performance was enjoyed by a near full house.

In his programme notes Neil urged the audience to join in, and they did in gusto, with lots of boos and hisses for Abanazar, who was played with aplomb by Martin.

He clearly enjoyed his role as the bad boy and Ruaridh forgave him for his naughtiness, when he “kindly” swopped Aladdin’s old magical lamp for a shiny unuseable one!

Ruaridh’s favourite character was Princess Mandarin, played by Louise Young, another society regular. He voted her the best because she wore “lots of bling and was nice and sparkly!” She clearly enjoyed her role too and had a good strong singing voice.

Her beau Aladdin (Kevin Kay) combined well with the Princess and his brother Wishee Washee, played by Mark Tranmer. It is Mark’s first venture into the pantomime since his junior days in the chorus and he handled it confidently and clearly had fun encourgaging the audience to join in.

Dave Pilkington proved a master as Widow Twanky and was the major corny jokes contributor, with Laura Chadwick combining her role as Soshy (another good singer) with the choreographing of the chorus.

And what a good job she did as the youngsters were a credit to her (not like in my day when we used to drop most of our props!). Peter Morville helped a young Jack Hartley tell the gags as the Chinese police Hu Dung Pong and Yu Dung Wong and performers Kathleen Watkins (a popular Empress with Ruaridh, as she too had lots of bling!) and Roger Dugdale as Genie showed their experience.

The star of the show for me was Angela Foulds who played the Spirit of the Ring. Angela is usually to be found playing more serious roles with the Garrick, but she was hilarious as she potrayed her character in the likeness of Mrs Acorn from television’s Acorn Antiques fame, although I am convinced there was a little look of Mad Mary from Coronation Street thrown in too!

Lynn McCheyne of Sanderson Dance and Fitness Centre did an excellent job making sure the dancers worked well and the costumes and scenery arranged by Glenise Kay, Hazel Hodder, Gwen Smith, Ken Hardwick and Andy Young, were of high standard. Musical director Jonathan Chalker made sure his section worked well too.

Tickets for the show cost just £8, with £6 for concessions, and are worth every penny. These days children’s performances tend to be over with quickly. But Aladdin lasted more than two hours and one nice touch was the appearance of the cast after the show, lining the stairs out of The Mechanics and thanking people for attending.

To me that shows attention to detail and a real care to perform a good show and as Ruaridh said after he gave the princess a goodbye kiss, “it was magical Mum” and it was!

For ticket availability, ring the booking office on 664400 or log onto www.burnleymechanics.co.uk

REBECCA HAY